Where is the Zen?

E onde está o Zen? A minha descoberta das últimas semanas é o genial "Yes, I'm a Witch" de Yoko Ono. Devo que confessar que nunca a tinha ouvido com atenção, mas este album muda a opinião que (não) tinha dela. Bem precisava deste Zen depois das politiquices que me têm preocupado.

Yoko Ono - Revelations (Cat Power Remix)

Bless you for your anger,
Its a sign of rising energy.
(transform the energy to versatility and it will bring you prosperity)

Bless you for your sorrow,
Its a sign of vulnerability.
(transform the energy to sympathy and it will bring you love)

Bless you for your greed,
Its a sign of great capacity.
(transform the energy to giving,
Give as much as you wish to take and you will receive satisfaction)

Bless you for your jealousy,
Its a sign of empathy.
(transform the energy to admiration
And what you admire will become part of your life)

Bless you for your fear,
Its a sign of wisdom.
(transform the energy to flexibility and you will be free from what you fear)

Bless you for your search of direction.
(transform the energy to receptivity and the direction will come to you)

Bless you for the times you see evil.
(evil feeds on your support. feed not and it will self-destruct.
Shed light and it will cease to be)

Bless you for the times you feel no love.
Open your heart to life anyway
In time you will find love in you.

You are a sea of goodness,
You are a sea of love.
Bless you, bless you, bless you,
Bless you for what you are.

Count your blessings evry day for they are your protection
Which stand between you and what you wish not.

Count your curses and there will be a wall
Which stand between you and what you wish.

The world has all that you need
You have the power to attract what you wish.
Wish for health, wish for joy,
Remember, you are loved.

The world has all that you need
And you have the power to attract what you wish.
Wish for health, wish for joy,
Remember, you are loved.

I love you

Não consigo deixar de tocar também o Rising remisturado por DJ Spooky (mp3). Vamos levantar o mau astral!

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Competition vs. Stealth Money-grabbing

Scientists and computer geeks are supposed to be the most rational of people, but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they drop factual rationality for computer platform evangelising. Nothing bores me more than hearing people I admire go on and on about the superiority of Apple computers versus PCs, Linux over Windows, etc. For the record, I have used (and still do) all of those platforms. They are tools that serve often different purposes. Since I don't evangelize about hammers and refrigerators, I tend not do it about computers either.

Beyond bored, I get disappointed when intelligent people spend so much time and effort criticizing Bill Gates. True, I think Steve Jobs is much more evil than Gates--- much more more secretive, competitive, scheming, childish, and much less generous, etc. But that is not why I get disappointed.

All these IT leaders---Gates, Jobs, Page, Brin, Bezos, Ellison, Berners-Lee, Torvalds, Zennstroem and the like---have transformed our lives in creative ways. They have produced amazing technology and visions that have transformed humanity in very positive ways, for the most part. That they are highly competitive, we should not be surprised. What propels them is probably a heavy dose of competition and creativity, but this is what should be at the core of healthy capitalist democracies.

What makes me angry is that while people, intelligent people, discuss these guys ad nauseum, the truly evil characters go about their stealth business without competing or inventing anything memorable or even useful. Indeed, their business model is simply to pocket as much of our tax-payer money as possible by infiltrating relevant government agencies---without much accountability at all. According to Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele on a recent Vanity Fair article, the taxes of those making less than 100K$ in the US (90% of American tax payers) go straight to contractors! Moreover, now that we seem to have reached the pinnacle of the era of the military-industrial(-counterterrorism) complex, many if not most of the huge government contracts are not subject to any competitive bidding (see also this NY Times Editorial).

Indeed, when we realize that the budget of a company like Lockheed Martin, which abandoned most of its competitive private sector business for government contracts, is larger than that of the department of Energy or Justice, or that the budget of SAIC, which does nothing but government contracts, is "larger than that of the departments of Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development combined", we see that a huge amount of the US economy has nothing to do with competition. These gigantic government contractors don't get contracts because they create something innovative or create any industrial innovation. No, they get rich via an insidious inbreeding between government agencies and companies. They are stealth operators that do not even attempt to compete with their products on a global scale or contribute to technological creativity.

Without competition and creativity, evolution stops. So does a true capitalist democracy. So what I want to know is why do intelligent people spend so much time discussing genuinely creative and competitive people like Jobs and Gates, and no one ever hears about the masters of the stealth business? Why not discuss the CEO's of SAIC, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, CACI, and the like instead? After all, unlike Apple or Microsoft, the business model of government contractors (especially the "behemoths that are doing 90 or 95 percent of their business with the government") is simply to take in as much tax-payer money as possible---so we should care much more. Moreover, as their role in the build-up to the war attests, their business interests are not necessarily in tune with our security. Who cares about Vista and OS X?

In the age of the military-industrial-counterterrorism complex, anti-trust laws seem so 20th century. What we need now are anti-leech laws. We should start with a law forbidding companies from making more than 50% of their revenue from the government. If this is a capitalist society, let them compete---in the free market of products and services, not on government lobbies.

Further Reading:
Washington's $8 Billion Shadow by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, Vanity Fair.

In Washington, Contractors Take On Biggest Role Ever by SCOTT SHANE AND RON NIXON, NY Times.

Government Inside Out, NY Times.

Addendum: Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics




I remember 2003 too

My friends typically expect me to post dance music or glam, but I do listen to a lot of other stuff, even country! Yes, I've always had a soft spot for the Pop side of country. Not just Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash, but also Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and Willie Nelson. Naturally, I detest the fat-guys-in-tight-pants-selling-pick-up-trucks-draped-in-American-flags-and-eagles type of country music, which brings me back to 2003.

It is very nice to see all the kudos given to the Dixie Chicks now, but in 2003 it was an altogether different story. Back then, even though plenty of evidence pointed to what moved Bush and the gang, the streets were full of cars flying American flags in support for this crazy war. Yes, given that this is a Democracy, a little over half of all voting Americans are responsible for electing those who brought us this war and all the death, mismanagement, corruption, deficit, ill-will, insecurity and decadence it entails. Democracy means that those who elected this gang, are also responsible for the current state of afairs. Moreover, when Bush was elected in 2004, it was clear to anyone who cared to be informed what he was about and what this war would accomplish.

Back in 2003, even though I did not receive death threats like the Dixie Chicks, I did receive one anonymous voice-mail hoping to scare me from my online and private ramblings. The anonymous caller was upset that one of my e-mails at work displayed a quote from Karl Popper: All nationalism and racialism is evil. I was "advised" that if I wanted to maintain my job I should refrain from such talk. This anonymous call was actually one of the big reasons why I left the Los Alamos National Laboratory to work in a much freer environment at Indiana University.

Back in 2003 I clearly understood how a Democracy can be tipped into fascism. How the threats to freedom of speech do not need to come from a government or a secret police. All it takes is blind nationalism, a little fear, and people pissed off at those who are different or have different opinions. James Madison was well aware of this when he wrote: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other". (another one of my favorite quotes in 2003). And what to do to get people in the mood for war? Oh well, this is what Herman Goering had to say to Gustave Gilbert at Nuremberg:

"Naturally the common people don't want war... But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship... Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

Now, as I also voiced somewhere online in 2003, I have great faith in the American people. I am indeed happy that the Dixie Chicks are now on top of the World---even though in 2003 they were shunned by fellow country music stars and even the American Red Cross refused a million dollars from the chicks in return for support of their tour. I am also happy that most Americans finally seem to see what kind of president they elected. Interestingly, while the war is still going on, no more flags are seen adorning cars these days...

But like the Dixie Chicks say in their pop hit, I can't forget 2003. I can't forget that anonymous call. I can't forget that 2003 is still going on in some quarters. Not only in the beltway where the usual gangstas are now trying to push a war with Iran, but in small towns all across America. I can't forget that just last year, in the Newburgh, NY airport, not too far north of the city, the security people thought that just because me and my young children were speaking another language (in an airport, mind you), we were potential threats. I can't forget how insidious patriotism can be in the minds of innocent people. And here, by innocent people, I am thinking of Graham Greene's description: "innocence is like dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm"---another favorite of mine in 2003.

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